Various Artists: Music of the Santal Tribe (ARC Music)

 |   |  1 min read

Surup Saren: Banam
Various Artists: Music of the Santal Tribe (ARC Music)

At Elsewhere we've observed as recently as earlier this year -- in a review regarding the Taranaki Womad -- how much festival-programmed "world music" has become just percussion-based dance to get people on their feet . . . with the inevitable fall-back position to a reggae rhythm.

Never fails to appeal and appease, but increasingly does not impress.

I've never thought for one minute that world music should be some ethno-correct thing and notions of "authentic music" are plainly absurd.

Just as people in Third World countries should have access to clean water and good health -- and Levis and iPhones if they want them -- then musicians from all parts of the globe should be allowed to do exactly what they want.

It's just that if they want to do reggae then they might need to know the world is a bit awash with the same boring old reggae tropes.

All of which is to say that this collection is refreshingly raw because these are field recordings made by musicologist and filmmaker Deben Bhattacharya (who died in 2001) in North East India in 1954 and 1973.

They allow us to eavesdrop on the recent past. and a time before reggae and electric instruments dominated, back to a time -- not that long ago -- where flute, single-string fiddle and simple drums provide the accompaniment to the singing of the Santal villagers.

These are religious, wedding and festival songs, and they are placed in their cultural and religious context by the typically useful, pointed liner notes.

This is certainly not an album for everyone, in fact it certainly isn't for you if you go to a Womad expecting to do your interpretive dance moves.

But this is "world music" as it used to be . . . and there's not a percussion-based uplifting dance groove, dub remix or reggae-style song anywhere in earshot.

It's a refreshing reminder of how music can so integral to people's lives, and how musicians did what they did because they were expected to in the village . . . and not because they had a CD or t-shirt to sell. Or a career that needed taking care of.


Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   World Music articles index

OTTMAR LIEBERT INTERVIEWED (2006): A new age of flamenco

OTTMAR LIEBERT INTERVIEWED (2006): A new age of flamenco

Very few musicians can claim to have created a genre, but with his 1990 album Nouveau Flamenco, guitarist Ottmar Liebert did exactly that. Liebert’s hybrid style -- which existed... > Read more

ELSEWHERE'S FAMOUS WOMAD QUESTIONNAIRE: Kris Drever of Lau (Scotland)

ELSEWHERE'S FAMOUS WOMAD QUESTIONNAIRE: Kris Drever of Lau (Scotland)

With some slight variations on our Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire to suit the world and worldly musicians playing at this year's Womad (details below), we now offer Elsewhere's Famous Womad... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Otis Taylor: Clovis People Vol 3 (Telarc)

Otis Taylor: Clovis People Vol 3 (Telarc)

First, there is no Vol 1 or Vol 2, but this addition to Taylor's catalogue of "trance blues" which follows the excellent Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs of last year is certainly a... > Read more

GUEST WRITER MADELINE BOCARO remembers the unique quality of Klaus Nomi

GUEST WRITER MADELINE BOCARO remembers the unique quality of Klaus Nomi

The transitional period between decades is always highly charged with the excitement of things to come, and nostalgia for an era coming to an end. The Seventies had their final burst of... > Read more